The march Maria Corina Machado called for today got underway early this morning. These are some pictures from the demonstration:
It’s not dusk yet in Caracas, but the National Guard is already out in force in Altamira, where there will undoubtedly be confrontations later today:
The government is launching something called the “Tarjeta de Abastecimiento Seguro” (literally, “Certain Stock Card”, or “Sure Stock Card”). You’ll be able to use the card in any state-owned supermarket chain, and the card will eventually give users the benefit of discounts and prices.
The article says that the first step of setting up this card system is “a great census”, including “the biometric registry of all the users [customers] of state-owned [food] markets”. The point of the card, according to Maduro, is to “protect the people” by cracking down on hoarding and smuggling food into Colombia to sell at a profit.
The problem is that people buy subsidised food for cheap from state-owned supermarkets like PDVAL and Mercal, then drive over to Colombia and sell the food there for a profit. With this card, the government is looking to track individual purchases to make sure that no one is buying suspiciously large quantities of products.
Yesterday, the CICPC (A police body that carries out investigation) raided the home of university professor Nancy Flores, in El Trigal, Valencia. Professor Flores is a lawyer and a member of the Faculty of Economic and Social Sciences in the Universiad Catolica in Valencia. The CICPC took her cellphone. The investigation is in relation to the death of National Guard Sargent Giovanni Pantoja. To me, this smells of the comments that Diosdado Cabello made yesterday regarding Maria Corina Machado, calling her part of the “intellectual authors” of the deaths reported so far.
According to the Foro Penal (a group dedicated to tracking and aiding demonstrators in the legal proceedings against them), accusations of torture on behalf protesters against of security forces now sits at 59. The Foro said that is is aware of accusations of security forces raiding homes without warrants, of armed groups (colectivos armados) acting violently in plain presence of security forces without repercussion, arbitrary detentions, threats of sexual violence (in at least seven cases), violations of the right to mount a defence against charges by denying people access to lawyers, and intentional damage to property.
A National Bolivarian Police officer named Gustavo Zambrano was dismissed from his post and charged with “instigating crimes” for allegedly sending an anti-government message presumably through social media. The article doesn’t say what the message was, but it does quote an anonymous officer as saying, “We get three hours of sleep, we sleep on the helicoid [stairs?] and on the floor. We haven’t even been able to to clean our uniforms, and they [their bosses] don’t let us leave to go deposit money for our families”.
And Leopoldo Lopez, who is currently in jail for some reason, said via a written letter, “In the loneliness of my cell, my best companion is my innocence”. He’s been in the Ramo Verde military prison for a couple of weeks now, after Maduro ordered his arrest for instigating the protests and by connection killing the people who’ve died in them so far.
What Do The Protesters Want?
This survey released today by Datos answers, in part, the question: “What do the protesters want?” The survey polled “800 women and men of legal age belonging to the socio-econmic levels ABC+, C-, D and E” and was “determined by sex, age and socio-economic level of the interviewees, proportional to the population”. The cities surveyed were: Caracas, Maracaibo, Ciudad Guayana, Puerto La Cruz/Barcelona, Valencia, Maracay, Barquisimeto and San Cristobal. It took place between February 28 and March 2, with a “margin of error of 3.46% with a confidence level of 95% for the total population surveyed”.
These are some of the questions the survey asked, and the results:
- “According to your opinion, generally, how is the country doing today?” 9.8% replied “Good” or “Very Good”, 17.4% replied “More or less good”, and 72% replied between “More or less bad” and “Very bad”.
- “Could you please tell me what is the problem that affects you personally the most?” 30.5% replied “Scarcity”, 29.1% replied “Insecurity”, and 13.4% replied “high cost of living”.
- “Compared to last year, would you say the economic situation is…?” 17.1% replied “Better/just as good as last year”, 25.1 replied “Same as last year”, and 56.8% replied “Worse/just as bad as last year”.
- “Based on how you view the political and social panorama of the country, in general, how do you think your personal economic situation and that of your family will fare over the next six months?” 19.4% answered “Better/just as good as it is now”, 19.0% replied “The same as it was a year ago”, and 56% replied “Worse/just as bad as it is today”.
On Maduro himself and the government:
- “How would you classify the work that the current government of Nicolas Maduro is doing for you personally?” 23.6% replied “Positive/More positive than negative”, 21.3% replied “Neither positive nor negative”, and 50.4% replied “Negative/more negative than positive”.
- “Who is principally responsible for not being able to find dollars to bring merchandise and products from outside of the country?” 66.1% replied “The Maduro Government”, 3.1% replied “Private enterprises” and 1% replied “Capitalism”.
- “Who is principally responsible for the scarcity of products?” 53.0% replied “The Maduro Government”, 14.4% replied “Private enterprise”, 8.9% replied “Others”.
- “Who is principally responsible for personal insecurity?” 50.1% replied “The Maduro Government”, 20.4% replied “The people themselves”, and 17.1% replied “Others”.
And these two:
- “Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: ‘The opposition should maintain itself on a constitutional path to change the government’?” 69.0% replied “Agreed”.
- “Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: ‘We must [exit this government, have the government leave] as soon as possible through constitutional means’?” 64.0% replied “Agreed”.
The results of the survey reinforce the mantra that scarcity, insecurity and (high cost of living/inflation/economic woes) are huge problems for Venezuelans, that they hold the government responsible for them, and that they want change. Most importantly, a great majority want this change to be constitutional. This is great, because it pokes holes in the government assertion that the demonstrators are violent, bloodthirsty Nazis bent on overthrowing the government.
Perhaps more importantly, by stating that they want any change in the government to be constitutional, the respondents give hope for the future of the country. The alternative to this sentiment would be, “I want change, but I do not want it to happen constitutionally.” In other words, a coup d’etat – and the (potentially) years of chaos and bloodshed that it would bring – is not something that most Venezuelans are interested in.
Contrary to what the government says, those who oppose it are not fascist puppets, or extremists, or mindless thugs. They are ordinary Venezuelans who, according to the poll, are tired of the horrible conditions they live in, blame the government for them, and want a legal, constitutional change to occur at the highest levels of government as soon as possible.